Online Program

Optometry's Role in Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Monday, November 2, 2015

Jeanie Washington, OD, MPH, Professional Eye Center, Chicago, IL


As one element of a broader National Preparedness System to prevent, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other disasters, Optometry has incrementally emerged as an integral part of the emergency preparedness system.

Objectives: This study set out to determine Optometry’s role in Public Health Emergency Preparedness. Needs analysis of clinically significant optometric service when there is an emergency was examined across manmade, weather and geological disasters.

Method:  The 84 U.S. disasters were examined in 2014 based on reports from FEMA. Eye emergencies were assessed. Analysis of eye emergencies were made with assessment of best practice. 


Results: There were 69 out of the 84 disasters that showed ocular complications that could be addressed within the scope of Optometry. The major ocular complications during emergencies include chemical exposure, corneal abrasions, and severe dry eye.  Results identified a significant need for Optometric service in emergency preparedness across multiple agencies and should be incorporated into NIMS for effective emergency management.  Eye incident management was underestimated at a ratio of 1:5 incidents (P=0.03; P<0.0001). 


Conclusion: An analysis of intentional, accidental, weather and geological disasters were examined as they relate to eye problems to address the gap between public health Optometry and disaster mitigation to improve the health of all people. Optometry holds a defining role in emergency preparedness and National Incident Management Systems.  The need for Optometric best practices were found to exist in all areas of disaster relief and should be considered in government decision making processes.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Administration, management, leadership
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
List five agencies where there is a deficit in Optometric best practice as it relates to emergency preparedness. Articulate the role of Optometry in emergency preparedness that mitigate disaster. Develop a care plan for public health Optometry disaster relief.

Keyword(s): Emergency Preparedness, Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Public Health Doctor of Optometry. Among my scientific interests has been the development of strategies for Doctors of Optometry to plan a key role in Emergency Preparedness mitigation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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